Flea infestation of “apocalyptic proportions” closes 2 primary schools in Oakland for cleaning

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) – Two Oakland elementary schools will be closed for the remainder of the week due to a flea infestation possibly caused by raccoons in the area, school officials said Wednesday.

“The move comes after a major problem with fleas on campus,” said the Oakland Unified School District when it announced the two-day closure of Esperanza Elementary School and Korematsu Discovery Academy, which are located next to each other in East Oakland, starting Thursday.

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“We’re starting to get kids like ‘What ?!’ There are literally little fleas everywhere, the kids started jumping around and said, “Oh my god Ms. Wilson! What is it? What is it? “They take them off each other and bite and scratch,” says Kathryn Wilson, who teaches 5th grade at Esperanza Elementary.

She says the flea problem started two weeks ago. Students and teachers were bitten by the pests.

“When we got home, her whole face was like she had insect bites from the fleas and I was like, ‘Oh my god, what happened?'” Says Elizabeth Pena, whose fifth year was bitten by the fleas.

Exterminators have been working to get rid of the fleas for a few weeks, but the problem persists and closing schools will prevent fleas from spreading across campus, the district said in a statement.

“It will also allow crews to more thoroughly clean all classrooms and common areas, including removing any carpets where fleas have settled and laid their eggs,” the statement said.

Wilson is frustrated that the teachers had to threaten not to show up for help. John Sasaki, a representative for the Oakland Unified School District, says the district was trying to fix the problem.

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“Unfortunately, the treatments didn’t show the desired effect, at least not as quickly as we’d like, so we decided to step up our game,” says Sasaki.

Wilson just hopes it doesn’t happen again.

“They were just covered in fleas from shoulders to ankles, more fleas than I’ve ever seen, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like apocalyptic proportions,” says Wilson.

The schools have a park on one side and a wooded area on the other and “have seen problems with raccoons,” the district said. Experts in the district assume that the animals may have led to the flea problem.

Oakland schools welcomed students back to face-to-face classes in August after more than a year of distance learning due to the pandemic.

During the two-day closure, students will receive short-term study packages. Each school has about 300 students.

“Exterminators say you shouldn’t expect the flea problem to be completely resolved” when classrooms reopen on Monday, the district said, noting that flea extermination could take a month and a half or more, but it should be a noticeable improvement give.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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